In the late 90’s, Parts&VendorsTM (PV) was the seminal multi-user application for embedded-electronics design teams to manage the parts and assemblies used in their various projects. It was a Windows desktop application and managed everything to do with an embedded-type product, including parts, vendors, manufacturers, purchasing, supporting documents, and even included rudimentary stock control to support small-volume manufacturing.
After almost 15 years on top, PV was discontinued January 2014. From the perspective of an outside observer, PV failed by not staying relevant and by creating an insurmountable technical debt. User teams were working more cooperatively with less authoritarian overhead, but the PV database did not suffer clients crashing or WAN latencies gracefully. Eventually best practices for Windows app development moved on and the effort to update PV became insurmountable.
Today, PV is still a standard that others can be compared to, especially ERPNext – a new web-based fully-featured open-source ERP system that is getting considerable well-deserved attention. However, before comparing PV to ERPNext, we need to first review some basic PV functionality.
Parts&Vendors UX / UI
Item Master Tab
Parts are accessed through the Item Master tab.
Selecting a part provides detailed information on sources (vendors) as well as other useful information.
Files and URLs
Documents and web sites can be associated with a part,
making it easy to access local documents or a web page for reference.
Unfortunately PV did not include a document control user interface to keep things in order, or utilities to verify document paths or list parts referencing a particular file. The shared directory approach worked well for a small conscientious team, or one with a dedicated “librarian”, but not with a more “entrepreneurial” team (if you know what I mean <wink>).
A part may be grouped with others in an Assembly. You can easily tell what assemblies include a particular part in PV from the part’s Used On tab.
It’s also easy to navigate from a part to a containing assembly, and back. This is also called traversing a product tree containing child parts and parent parts.
An assembly has a Parts List (aka Bill-of-Materials or BOM) that lists its child parts.
Parts can be easily ordered,
An order can accumulate parts until it is placed with a vendor, eventually resulting in a purchase Purchase Order (PO).
In a smaller organization, the engineering team often does the ordering themselves. In a larger organization, a “real” purchase order may need to be created in a separate parallel system (e.g. QuickBooks). The exact process will depend on an organization’s size, structure, and history.
When the ordered parts arrive, the PO is retrieved and the order item marked received,
which updates the stock on hand.
The assembly Parts List is one way to see when the parts necessary to build an assembly are in stock.
Once all the child parts for an assembly are in stock, a “Kit List” is generated from the “Build” tab for manufacturing. Stock on hand can be reduced for the kitted items, and later increased for the finished assembly when completed.
PV can also manage clients and client orders, although the functionality is not integrated with stock control and closing an order does not reduce quantity on hand of the ordered items. The functionality is understandable though given it was never a goal of PV to be a POS (Point Of Sale) or CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system.
This completes a quick refresher of Parts&Vendors. In the next post I will compare ERPNext to Parts&Vendors.